Supporting colleagues affected by the menopause

Menopause can be defined as the natural stage in every woman’s life when a woman’s periods stop and her ovaries lose their reproductive function.  The medical definition of menopause is when you have not had your monthly period for at least 12 consecutive months. This usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55 but for some women it can be earlier or later.

Menopause and perimenopause (the phase leading up to the menopause) can cause symptoms including anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, hot flushes and irregular periods. These symptoms can start years before your periods stop and carry on afterwards.  Menopause and perimenopause symptoms can have a big impact on your life, including relationships and work.

The NHS workforce employs over 1.3 million people 76.5% of them (over 1 million) women, of which women between the ages of 45 and 54 make up 19.1% (over 260,000) of the entire NHS workforce.

Good menopause care has both direct and indirect impacts on workforce retention levels, productivity, and absenteeism.   Ensuring staff get the support they need is an important part of retaining experienced talent and skills. It would also minimise the impact of a person’s symptoms, health and wellbeing issues, and productivity on patient outcomes, their work, personal life, and relationships.

As a line manager, how can I support a colleague experiencing the menopause?

  • All NHS organisations can now access the national menopause guidance that was developed by NHS England and aims to support organisations and line managers in supporting colleagues experiencing symptoms of the menopause. This guidance helps readers understand more about the menopause, how the symptoms can affect our colleagues at work, and how we can better support colleagues who are experiencing symptoms of the menopause.
  • For colleagues off work due to menopause related symptoms, line managers are encouraged to maintain regular contact to support and connect during the absence.  Our Recording menopause related sickness guidance also offers advice to line managers, HR colleagues and ESR users on how to record menopause related sickness.  By recording accurately, we can gain a better understanding of the impact menopause is having on NHS people and put in place support that our colleagues need.
  • Offer regular wellbeing conversations to check in with colleagues and explore if making any reasonable adjustments to their working pattern would support them.
  • Recommend that colleagues join local or national menopause support groups and peer networks to meet others who are experiencing similar challenges.
  • You can also find tips for managers and leaders on how to support colleagues affected by the menopause in the ‘Supporting colleagues in late career’ chapter of our retention guide for line managers and employers.
  • NHS England have a new e-learning for health module about the menopause. Developed specifically for NHS staff, it covers the common symptoms of the menopause, how it can impact people at work and how we can support colleagues going through the transition.

Further menopause resources can be found on the Supporting colleagues in early and late career page of the retention hub: NHS England » Supporting people in early and late career

NHS Employers have also published more detailed guidance on how to support colleagues affected by menopause, which can be accessed on the NHS Employers website.

As an organisation, how can I support my workforce?

Please see the following case studies from a selection of ICSs and organisations who are supporting their workforce in becoming menopause friendly: